Etiquette in Saudi Arabia

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Meeting Etiquette

  • Men shake hands. 
  • Women generally hug and kiss close friends.
  • Men and women would not greet each other in public from outside the family. 
  • When Saudis greet each other they take their time and converse about general things.

Gift Giving Etiquette

  • If you are invited to a Saudi's house bring something small as a thank you.
  • Flowers do not make good gifts from a man, although a woman could give them to her hostess.
  • Never give alcohol unless you are positive they partake.
  • Gifts are not opened when received.

Dining Etiquette

  • Saudis socialize primarily in restaurants and international hotels when entertaining expatriates whom they do not know well. After some time you will be invited to the home.
  • Entertainment will generally be same-sex only. If both sexes are included, they will be in separate rooms.

If you are invited to a Saudi's house: 

  • You would usually remove your shoes.
  • Dress conservatively.
  • Try to arrive at the invited time. Punctuality is appreciated but not crucial.
  • Show respect for the elders by greeting them first.
  • Accept the offer of Arabian coffee and dates even if you do not normally drink coffee.
  • If you are invited for a meal, understand that there will be a great deal of socializing and small talk before the meal is served.

Business Meeting Etiquette

  • Appointments are necessary and should be made several weeks to one month in advance if at all possible.
  • When meeting with government officials, a firm date will not be settled upon until you are physically in the country.
  • Try to schedule meetings in the morning.
  • You should arrive at meetings on time, although it is an accepted custom to keep foreigners waiting.
  • It is not uncommon to have a meeting cancelled once you arrive.
  • Meetings are generally not private until after a relationship of trust has been developed. This means you may expect frequent interruptions. Others may wander into the room and start a different discussion. You may join in, but do not try to bring the topic back to the original discussion until the new person leaves.
  • Business meetings start after prolonged inquiries about health, family, etc. Never inquire about a Saudi's wife.
  • Since Saudis will most likely judge you on appearances, dress and present yourself well.
  • Business women should make certain that their collarbones and knees are covered and that their clothes are not form-fitting.

Business Cards

  • Business cards are given to everyone you meet, although it may be an idea to be selective if you have few in your possession.
  • Have one side of your card translated into Arabic. Be sure to check the translation carefully as there is often confusion with the order of western names. 

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